By Swalley Kenyi
Africa Nations Championship
Morocco 3 Uganda 1
Burkina Faso 0 Zimbabwe 1
UGANDA Cranes have been dumped out of the on-going Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) finals in South Africa.
The Cranes fell 3-1 to Morocco at Cape Town Stadium on Monday night despite putting up a spirited performance that saw goalkeeper Benjamin Ochan pull off a string of saves to keep Uganda in the match.
Substitute Francis Olaki missed a glorious opportunity to equalise in stoppage time only for Cranes to succumb to a ruthless counter attack from the Moroccans.
Cranes captain Denis Iguma leads out the team prior to kick off. Photo by Kenneth Muwanga
Ochan saved the initial shot from the break but Abdelkbir El Ouadi was on hand to round the goalie from the rebound and calmly slot home to end Uganda’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages for the first time ever.
The loss paved way for Morocco and Zimbabwe to advance to the quarterfinals from Group B.
Coach Micho Sredejovic was true to his word and Cranes came flying out of the blocks and took the game to the North Africans but were pegged back by Rafik Abdessamad’s 29th minute strike.
Cranes piled on the pressure late in the first half but Morocco defended resolutely clearing a number of goal bound shots off the line.
Cranes fans were in full voice. Photo by Kenneth Muwanga
New kid on the block Yunus Sentamu, made Cranes’ bright start to the second half pay off when he latched on to Vincent Kayizzi’s lofted pass into the six yard area on 60 minutes to poke home and take his tally in the competition to three goals.
At that point Uganda were through and Micho brought on Olaki for Hassan Wasswa while the Atlas Lions made a double substitution, bringing in Iajour Mouhssine and Zakaria Hadraf soon after.
It proved to be an inspired change as Mouhssine beat Ochan with a neat finish in the 77th minute to put Morocco in pole position to advance from the group.
Savio Kabugo saw his well struck free kick agonisingly sail just inches high as Uganda looked for the equaliser that would keep them in the tournament.
The fans who turned up carried along banners in support of the Cranes. Photo by Kenneth Muwanga
Chances went begging for Cranes but El Ouadi made sure of Morocco’s win and safe passage to the next round.
Zimbabwe secured their passage into quarter-finals of the African Nations Championship when they eliminated Burkina Faso with a 1-0 victory at Athlone Stadium last night.
A fan consoles Cranes striker Francis Olaki after the match. Photo by Kenneth Muwanga
Cranes' technical bench looked glum during proceedings. Photo by Kenneth Muwanga
The Warriors found the solitary goal of the match through vice-captain Masimba Mambare who headed home in the 56th minute from a Milton Ncube cross from the left.
Zimbabwe who had previously drawn 0-0 with Morocco and Uganda will now face Group A winners Mali in the quarter-finals at Cape Town Stadium.
With Morocco beating Uganda 3-1 in the other Group B match the Warriors needed an outright win to qualify.